Trump’s trial was long awaited since his first impeachment charges last December. The Capitol attack caused more charges to be brought up against him, and the Senate’s decision was announced a few days ago. Throwback to the proceedings of an unprecedented political process after months of tension.
Charges and stakes
As many question the Capitol’s security’s efficiency or accuse them and the police officers of being on the side of the attackers, one thing remains unknown. Was there inside help or intelligence that helped these men breach the doors of the symbolic building ? The FBI opened an investigation and is even resorting to counterterrorism strategy, which includes tracking the travel and communication records, following money transfers and persons of interest in order to identify as many attackers as possible and shed light on how it all happened.
So far more than 200 people have been charged, and 40 arrested for assaulting police officers. Trespassing, theft of government property, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds are the most common charges, but federal investigators and prosecutors do not exclude new and more severe accusations, as the cases grow and the investigation goes on.
Beyond the will of the mob to stop the election of Joe Biden as president was also the intention to spread terror and hate, at a crucial moment in the country’s history. The scale of divisions and opposition in the United States, be it within politics and institution or within society itself, may well be the biggest issue of Biden’s presidency. Despite Trump’s departure and loss, many stay loyal to his clan and his ideologies, laying a dangerous and fertile ground for extremist and supremacist ideas reinforced by the current context of the pandemic.
Short trial, close call
Trump’s presidency ended with another record : he’s the first US president to be impeached twice by The House. But impeached does not mean convicted.
The second impeachment process started on January 13th, on the charge of “incitement to insurrection”, as Trump’s tweets and speeches sparked the Capitol riots of January 6th. On January 25th, the article was sent to the Senate, and the trial could start.
Trump’s lawyers argued that none of his speeches were inciting this riot, and based his argumentation on the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression. After 5 days of presentation, arguments and questions, Trump was found not guilty, and thus is still able to run for election – including the presidential campaign for 2024. Senator McConnell expressed the disbelief of many after this verdict : “President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he’s in office. He didn’t get away with anything yet.”
Joe Biden also reacted to the acquittal of the former president, by commenting on the fragility of the United-States’ democracy. The Republican party is as fragile as this trial highlighted : while most Republican Senators voted against Trump, some did not, confirming the power Trump still holds on a large base of the GOP – a dangerous grip, which could still have a lot of influence on American politics and the party’s future.
Trump’s impeachment amounted to a pile of records : first impeachment while a president is out of office, first president to be impeached twice, first time a unanimous vote led to an impeachment procedure. Yet it was not enough to break the last one : a conviction. Trump was acquitted on a close call, and this leaves a bitter taste for many.
It is yet to be seen now how Biden’s administration will take on the next four years, and what political strategy the administration will put into place to repair the damages the previous mandate did to the nation. The long awaited trial now leaves place to long awaited changes and high hopes for a strong, fair democracy. Wait and see.
Couverture : The House impeachment managers walk through the US Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday, February 9.Win McNamee/Getty Images